Summer has been hot. In fact, it's been much hotter than normal in many parts of the country. When atmospheric high-pressure settles over an area for more than a couple of days, the upper level of air is forced toward the ground and traps the already hot air at the surface making it even hotter. When the sunny days of summer heat-up the sinking air, it is compressed and the sun’s rays greatly increase the ambient temperature. High pressure forms a heat dome that can linger for weeks leaving people to suffer with stagnant air that feels like they are living in an oven.
Combined with high levels of humidity, hot air forms a heat bubble over a certain area with extremely dangerous weather conditions. This year the Dog Days of Summer are expected to bring brutally hot conditions across most of the nation. So far, climate change only appears to be making heat waves happen more often and last longer with even more damaging effects. Unfortunately, today’s heat domes can linger for weeks leaving owners to wonder what to do for their golf cart, when the weather becomes unbearably hot.
How to Protect a Cart During Hotter Months
It is obvious that a majority of the nation may continue to experience extreme outdoor temperatures during the day for the remaining summer months and possibly through the early months of fall. If you have concerns about what you can do to protect your golf cart during the hotter months, discussed below are a few things to consider:
Golf Cart Batteries – From the time the battery was initially invented, higher operating temperatures have always taken a toll on a battery’s charge. With traditional lead-acid batteries, this is due to increased evaporation of vital liquids. Hot temperatures also speed up the corrosive process that can cause irreversible damage to the battery’s internal structure. Although it might seem counterintuitive, increased ambient temperatures impact the chemistry inside the battery more than a winter’s chill. As a result, a street legal golf cart is more likely to wind up stranded on the roadside during a heatwave. That means routine inspections are equally as important for the battery as they are for the rest of a street legal golf cart.
Tires and Brakes – Tires keep you rolling and brakes stop the cart in a timely manner. Unfortunately, excess heat can adversely affect either and both deserve extra attention anytime temperatures are extreme. As the temperature goes up, the pressure inside a tire increases and the actual size of the tire expands causing them to over-inflate. If rubber tires are allowed to warp, they can interfere with steering, braking, and acceleration as well as the safe operation of the cart. Although modern golf carts have self-adjusting brakes, there are parts, pedals, and linkage that may need to be tweaked. Similar to a car, as golf cart brake pads start to go bad they squeal, so never delay service until the pedal goes to the floor.
Interior and Exterior Surfaces – It’s not surprising that ultraviolet rays from sunlight can take a toll on both interior and exterior surfaces of golf cart’s paint, plastics, equipment, and coverings. Too much direct sunlight can cause surfaces to dry out, fade, and crack. If a street legal golf cart is stored outside, it should be covered or kept under an awning. A cart cover can protect all surfaces from dulling or cracking due to harmful UV rays. Although golf cart cab enclosures are designed to protect passengers from cold weather, wind, and rain, these drive-able covers are also effective in protecting your interior surfaces from sunlight and heat but remember to remove any sensitive electronics (like an onboard GPS) before storage.
When a heatwave increases the ambient temperature, the importance of maintaining a charging schedule and performing routine battery maintenance cannot be overstressed. Equally important is managing tire pressures to prevent uneven wear that can impact both the performance and safe operation of an electric cart being driven on the street.
Understanding Deep Cycle Battery Maintenance
Whether it is during the heat of summer or harshest winter months, charging electric cart batteries is one of the most important and misunderstood components of deep cycle battery maintenance. Not only do golf cart batteries discharge during use, they also self-discharge during storage. Manufacturers recommend that new cart batteries should be charged every time they are used as it will extend their capacity and lifespan. Although golf cart batteries are designed to be deeply discharged, battery life is significantly improved if they are charged at about 50% discharge. If deep cycle batteries are not charged during prolonged storage, the damage can lead to reduced charging capacity.
Summer heat increases the rate at which fluids evaporate from a wet golf cart battery. So, it is crucial to monitor water levels to avoid sulfation caused by exposed battery plates when fluid levels drop too low. Only distilled water should be added and only when the battery is fully charged. Since electrolyte levels raise while charging, adding water prior to a full charge can result in an overflow. If you tend to use the golf cart only during the warmer months and store it during the winter, use a trickle charger to extend the life of the battery. These chargers can remain connected to the battery for weeks or months at a time. The trickle is enough power to keep it charged but without harming the internal components.
For additional tips on prepping your electric golf cart to handle the heatwave or to survive summer storage, contact Brett Jackrel, Sales Manager of Moto Electric Vehicles. While you are at it, ask about the advantages of installing lithium replacement batteries for your electric street legal or golf-course purposed cart.